Saturday, July 02, 2005

Last Exile

Today I just finished the 26th episode of Last Exile, been watching it for 2 days straight since I could stop after the first episode. That’s how good it was. Warning ahead may contain minor spoilers concerning events in the series but nothing full blown.

Studio Gonzo’s (Full Metal Panic, Hellsing, etc) latest fare is set in an industrial age setting though with anti gravity flight and modern weaponry, where the protagonist Claus Valca and his long time friend Lavie Head are living as vanship pilots living in Norkia, delivering messages to earn their keep. The world (Prester) is facing a war between Anatoray and Disith, fighting for land and resources as Disith is now enveloped in an ice age, forcing their inhabitants to cross the Great Stream, a turbulent maelstrom that separates both nations, to conquer Anatoray. In an age where chivalry still exists, war ship battles are carried out through a code much akin to warfare during the American Civil war where armies line up in formation and fight it out in an open battle field.

Embroiled in all this is the Guild, a self professed guardian of the world whose technology advantage and the control of a legacy called Exile is used to control the subjects they consider inferior to themselves. The control the resources, determine who utilizes them, restricts the usage of technology and generally act as arbiters in disputes. Most importantly all the nation's flight capability (through use of Guild piloted Cludia units) are dependent on Guild Unit's and thus makes them dependent to the whim of the Guild and giving them ultimate control of the world. Thus living in extravagants and having only contempt for anyone else, the Guild is omnipotent.

Our heroes soon find themselves whisked away from the simple life they knew when they were out delivering a letter to the Duke Mad Thane, there they saw firsthand the destruction war was causing both nations and how they all lay like puppets at the Guild’s bidding. Also appearing early in the episodes audience were introduced to Silvana, a kind of independent fighting fortress, though still under the control of the Anatoray emperor, led by Captain Alex Row and their motley crew.

Claus and Lavie soon find themselves embroiled deeper as they meet up with a dying pilot pursued by the Guild and entrusted on a mission to deliver an important package, a girl named Alvis, who has an important part to play in connection to Exile. Thus we follow the fortunes of Claus, Lavie and Alvis as they journey from adventure to adventure. Meeting up with the crew of the Silvana and being introduced to characters such as the hotshot vanship pilot, Tatiana; the mechanic crew of the Silvana; Mullin Row a musketeer that joined Claus and Lavie on the Silvana; Lord Dio and Lucciola, two Guild members that were entangled with Claus; the sinister Maestro Delphine of the Guild as well as many others in the world of Prester. Thus in a tide of change which will determine whether the world will be brought down by ruination or towards a brighter future, the final hope lies in the secret which is Exile.

Gonzo has really done a good job in this series. The graphics are nicely drawn cells with a nice fluid look and wash down tones that makes it feel like the industrial age while the various special effects and ships in the series are rendered in stunning CGI, together both elements blend together seamlessly to create a great visual effect. The setting is a nice blend of various eras, from the Victorian villas to the industrial aged brick buildings of smaller tows to the futuristic entrapments of the Guild, the tapestry of styles will make you appreciate every bit of the series. Music wise you can expect beautiful scores throughout the series that gives a sentimental and somewhat sad melody to add to the mood. Battle scenes are especially memorable, loved the way they show how the crew handle the various ships by giving orders and battle tactics so reminiscent of real life combat. The designers really did their homework in coming out with costumes for each of the factions with those of the Anatoray similar to Imeprial French armies under Napoleon, the Russian like Cossack Disith army and the Elfin looking Guild as well as the down to earth street fashion of Norkia. The ships themselves are unique and stylishly done.

Storyboard is one of the best told from the many animes around, besides the unique premise where technology meets old fashion lifestyles, the story focuses on the human element of the show such as Claus’s relationship with Lavie with past flashbacks to detail about their life together and of the promise they made in childhood to follow their father’s footsteps and cross the Great Stream together someday. In the meantime you also get the macro feel of the world as nations prepare to go to war, the conflict enveloping the world as the nations soon see that the high handedness of the Guild must end and also the effects of war. In lighter moments you can just sit back and view subjects like vanship racing, which has been done in a very nice pace, maybe George Lucas should watch this and decide on how better to make a pod race segment that does not bore and tire you out. There are moments that wretch your heart such as the story between Lord Dio and Lucciola, who would have thought you could empathize with the villains as well as the spurn love of Alex and Sophia Forrester. Plus you'll all learn to hate Meastro Dalphine. An assortment of side stories also provides great insight on the daily life of vanship pilots, comradeship of the Silvana and the ruthless rule of the Guild.

All in all, this is one great series. If you were to buy only one anime series in the near future, opt to give this first pick. 5/5 star rating.

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